Cat Chronicles, Episode #4: Felines and Frostbitten Fronds

Natalie Cone | be the anomaly

January, 2018

With the freezing temps we’ve endured lately (it’s 17° at this moment), my poor plants haven’t fared well. On the first day of below freezing temps, I wasn’t able to get to my beloved plants in time before they were subjected to the bitter cold.

One particular plant, a pretty palm, is in the worst shape. A few minutes ago, as I went over to water it, I noticed it no longer had any life left. All the fronds hung limp and yellow, and have now dried. I pulled them off and watered it anyway, refusing to believe it’s dead.

Can palms come back from this?

As I pulled away the last of the fronds, The Cat stalked in to supervise my chore.

She apparently didn’t approve.

Unnoticing of my grief over the plant, she walked onto the pile of fronds as I attempted to scoop them up, and sat on top of them.

I pulled the fronds out from under her like a rug. Of course, with her deft balance, she never even slipped. Like the magician’s trick of pulling the tablecloth off a table loaded with delicate china.

Then she had the nerve to glare at me as if I were the one being a jerk.

But then, I thought, Could it be possible that she is actually here showing support? Could I have mistaken her glare for a narrow gaze of sympathy?

To test this possibility, I gently reached out to pet her.

She hoisted to her feet and padded away before my fingers made contact with her fur, without as much as a glance over the massive chip on her shoulder.

Snapshots of Joy through Life Lens

Life’s joys are often revealed to me in snapshots – an image etched into my memory that so accurately represent the best parts of my world. Such as …

Pushing Wesley and Caleb in their flying saucer swing, Caleb’s legs sticking straight out with his rubber boots on the wrong feet. His head is thrown back, face red and mouth wide open in breathless laughter at Wesley’s silliness.

Wesley’s little face with cornsilk hair and warmth in his eyes turned up to me as he throws his arms around me in a tight hug.

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Kris’s sincerity and deep love as he looks at me and emphasizes how much he believes in me.

The sun rising slowly, light sliding through the window panes and gradually brightening, as if the sky is relishing the process of dawn.

Catching Wesley helping with his little brother’s shoes so they can go outside and explore together.

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The sound of God’s voice as it pierces my heart through His word, in love and instruction. He tells me I am anointed. He tells me I have been enabled and equipped, and has asked that I put it to use in the exact way that He’s asked.

Caleb holding up his favorite Paw Patrol characters and asking in his little voice, “Mommy, will you play with me?”

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The mounds of laundry piled into baskets, waiting to be folded, because I’ve been too busy playing with the boys to get it done.

Waking Wesley for school and trying to hold my melting heart together as I look at his angelic sleeping face, long lashes and pink cheeks.

The admiration, love and need in Kris’s eyes when he leans in to kiss me. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t wrap me up in a sweet embrace, telling me he loves me and kissing me in a way that makes me weak in the knees.

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God’s constant “love notes” everywhere. Clovers. Blooms. A person’s smile. A hug. The color of the sky. A gentle rain. The song of birds. God’s love is absolutely everywhere.

And so, in snapshots through the macro lens of life, joy can be found.

On the Day that Jesus Died

The morning that Jesus was condemned, I sipped my coffee with contentment while sitting on the back porch.

While He was hungry and thirsty, I savored the sweet flavor of my coffee creamer, and wondered what flavor I should try next.

Photo by Sabri Tuzcu

While crowds screamed for Him to be crucified, I enjoyed the songs of the birds as they moved from branch to branch.

While He was suspended from the wrists and flogged, shredding the flesh of His back, I indulged in a warm shower.

While He dragged the cross up the hill to Golgotha, stumbling, enduring splinters from the wood and the weight of His burden, I sat on my soft couch to fold a load of fresh, clean laundry.

While the nails separated sinew and bone, piercing through skin and muscle, I prepared a warm breakfast for my kids.

Photo by Gianluca Carnicella

While His blood ran thick, red and hot down His arms, down His face, down His back, I filed my nails and polished them in a bright Easter pink.

While Mary watched her son suffer a bloody, gruesome death, I complained of the messy state of my kids’ rooms.

While Jesus groaned on the cross and struggled to breathe, I took a break and sat down for a little rest.

While He promised eternal life to a criminal dying next to Him, I yawned, stretched, checked the clock, and begrudgingly started on my next chore.

While He sighed His last breath with the phrase, “It is finished”, my sins were paid for. My filth was purchased by the ransom of pure, innocent blood.

And He did it without complaint.

In every way, I am undeserving of His suffering and sacrifice.

But good news is coming…

Photo by Jon Tyson

Cat Chronicles, Episode #3: Litter Box Protest

I couldn’t figure out what was causing the hives.

Every time I would give the boys a bath, Wesley would suddenly become covered in hives and start itching from head to toe. He would eventually start crying, and I would dry him off quickly and put on his PJ’s.

This went on consistently every night.

Then one night, my husband gave the boys a bath, and he came out of the bathroom scratching his legs from the hem of his shorts to his socks. “I am itching like crazy,” he said, clawing at his skin. “So is Wesley.”

I looked at Wesley, who was rubbing at a red patch on the side of his throat.

“Oh no,” I said. “Are you guys allergic to cats?”

“I don’t think a cat allergy looks like this. Remember when Madi came over, and half her face was red and one eye was bloodshot?”

Madi and Bailey are the daughters of one of my best friends, and our boys have no idea that they aren’t actually cousins. The girls call me Aunt Natalie, and I hope they never grow out of that. One day while the girls were playing in Wesley’s room, Madi walked up to me with one eye beginning to swell, the whites completely red. It turns out she’s allergic to cats. She had climbed onto Wesley’s bed, where Shadow had been napping earlier that day, and immediately had a reaction.

“What do you think is the problem?” I asked my husband as he began rubbing the sole of one shoe against the opposite leg.

“Maybe we’re just allergic to her pee. The littler box is in the bathroom. We only itch like this when we’re in there.”

I picked up my phone. “OK, Google. Can people be allergic to cat pee?”

Minutes later, we came to the conclusion that the kitty litter was to blame. I began researching the cost of buying hypoallergenic kitty litter, and I literally heard my bank account start to cry.

“What can we do?” I asked.

“Maybe she can get used to doing her business outside. It’s either that, or we find another home for her.”

Wesley dropped to his knees. “Nooo! We can’t get rid of the cat! Her tail is so soft!”

Kris shot him a look. “She was an outside cat when we found her. Maybe instincts will kick in.”

I should have known that pure sass, not instinct, would inevitably kick in.

She was NOT happy about her litter box being moved.

Little by little each day, I would inch the litter box closer to the back door. Then one day, I placed it on the back porch.

The next time she needed to use the litter box, I opened the back door, and waited.

She glanced at the back porch, looked back and me, then sat down and glared at me with an expression that said, “You’ve got to be kidding.”

I shrugged and just stood there, holding the door open, until she finally went out. I closed the door and peeked through the window. As soon as she squatted, she turned and glared at me.

When she was finished, I let her back inside and praised her.

She walked past me and ignored me.

After a couple of days, she stopped using the litter box on the back porch and found her own litter boxes in nature, and the official litter box went away forever.

That’s when the protesting began.

It started only occasionally. Instead of going to the back door to let me know she needed to go out, she would head into the bathroom and pee in the tub.

I would grumble as I cleaned it up, but told myself to be patient. She couldn’t possibly be doing it to intentionally annoy me.

Not my sweet itty bitty witty kitty.

Then she began pooping in the tub.

Enough is enough, I thought. How do you train a cat?

“OK, Google.”

One method of discipline is to use a squirt gun, and give her a little stream of water when she broke the rules.

Yeah, right, I thought, and just imagined the whole scenario.

I take said plastic water gun. I squirt a tiny stream of water at itty bitty witty kitty. She claws my eyeballs out of their sockets.

“OK, Google.”

One suggested method is to give the cat rewards when she obeys the rules.

Yeah right, I thought. How do you reward a cat that hates rewards? She turns her nose up at kitty treats (I’ve tried them). She doesn’t play with toys (waste of money). She refuses to use a scratching board and instead, uses the couch, which is right next to the scratching board (sorry, Heather – it was a very generous gift).

“OK, Google.”

The next one made me crack up laughing until I cried. WebMD said, “You could even teach your cat to pee in the toilet and flush afterwards!”

Not Shadow.

I came up with the brilliant idea to just leave the bathroom doors closed.

Problem solved.

Until it wasn’t.

One night, my husband and I were sitting on the couch watching TV. It was winter, but wasn’t cold enough for a fire, so we covered up with blankets. Shadow marched through the living room, stepped up onto the hearth, slipped into the fireplace, turned her back to us, and squatted in the ashes.

“What… Shadow!” Kris said, sitting up.”Stop! What are you doing?”

Oh, she didn’t stop.

She just turned and glared at him while she took her time finishing her business. Then she stood, delicately raked the ashes into a neat pile, and walked away, leaving a trail of tiny, ashy paw prints across the living room floor.

Kris and I looked at each other, dropped our jaws, and died laughing.

Shadow: 1, Inferior Humans: 0.

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ROW80: Hi ROW80 community! My writing progress update isn’t as good as I’d hoped to report, but at least it isn’t zero. 🙂 I’ve been very sick for the last week. I’ve only written about 3,000 words in the last two weeks, but am just shy of the 40,000 word mark. That means I’m still on track for completing my first draft by May 1st! I’m so ready for the revision stage. Hope everyone else’s progress has gone well! High fives all around!

The Darkest Day of My Life

It was the night terrors that landed me there in the office of our pastor. I asked him for material on spiritual warfare, certain I was under some kind of oppression that wouldn’t leave me. He suggested something else – a counselor.

He gave me the name of a reputable counselor who keeps Christ at their center, and is focused on healing.

I checked my insurance – counseling wasn’t covered. No money = no counselor.

I decided to go with the therapists that my insurance did cover, and to my luck, they had in their practice a psychologist who specialized in sleep disturbances and disorders.

I made an appointment and couldn’t wait to get to the bottom of the issue.

Sitting in the office of the psychologist, I was nervous. I had never done anything like this before. I felt the compulsion to reassure him that I was okay, I was perfectly fine, but just needed some guidance. The psychologist sat across the room from me, legs crossed, notebook in his lap, and proceeded to ask me probing, confusing questions. Did I see shadow figures while awake? Did I ever see or hear people or voices that no one else could hear? Did I sometimes feel that my thoughts were not my own? His questions were aggressively leading in the direction of bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, and paranoia, none of which accurately described me.

“No, I don’t see people who aren’t there. I don’t hear voices. What do you mean, shadow figures? I’m so exhausted from sleep disturbances, sometimes my periphery is foggy in a disorienting way… What do you mean thoughts that aren’t my own? Sometimes I feel so numb inside, I don’t feel like myself. Is that what you mean?”

His questions were difficult to answer, and I was surprised when he asked for no details whatsoever of the deep, sad feelings that haunted me.

He wrote three prescriptions, one of which, he explained, was usually prescribed for war veterans suffering from PTSD. I walked out of his office exactly fifteen minutes after I had arrived. I almost left the building entirely. I wanted to crumple the paper prescription and leave it there in the hallway. But no. I was there to seek help. I couldn’t jump ship so soon.

I should have.

I followed the psychologist’s instructions to go down the hall to a room where a psychiatrist was waiting for me. She was kind and welcoming in a detached, polished way. We shook hands. I sat down.

She asked me to describe my issues. I told her about the nightmares, the overwhelming sad feelings, the exhaustion, occasionally feeling an impulse to cry for no apparent reason.

“Let’s try a new method of therapy. I’ve been waiting for the right candidate, and this method seems perfect for you.”

She explained something called EMDR, compared it to mild hypnotism, and said it has been extremely successful in many cases, particularly those who had been in war.

I wasn’t sure why they kept comparing me to war veterans.

The idea was that the method would force me to face my most horrific feelings, memories, encounters, then participate in gentle rapid eye movement while focusing on a positive image to replace the bad feelings with good ones.

I was skeptical, and honestly, a little frightened. But what did I know? I had never done anything like this before.

She consulted a manual of sorts in her lap as she took me step-by-step through the therapy. Half an hour into it, I was violently shaking, weeping, and felt the need to curl up on the floor. My body was dehydrated from the tears. I felt like screaming. The overwhelming sad feelings seemed to completely envelop me and swallow me whole. I was drowning. I was dying.

Photo by Stefano Pollio

Walking back to my car, the sun was too bright. My heart was hollow. My soul felt violated. My spirit was dead. My mind was depleted.

Just focus on driving home, I told myself. If I can make it home, I can sleep. There’s nothing left of me to do anything else.

I called my husband, to whom I had been married less than a year, on the way home and told him what happened. I told him I was a wreck, and for some reason, felt terrified. I didn’t want to go back. But how could I seek healing if I didn’t allow someone to help?

He decided to go with me for the next session.

Feeling brave and empowered with the man I loved in the room, I sat across from the psychiatrist, ready.

Half an hour later, I felt void of life. I could only speak with slurred, emotion-laden words. Through my tears, I caught a glimpse of my husband’s face. He was horrified, and looked as if he wanted to sweep me up and carry me out of there.

I should have let him.

Two more sessions later, I couldn’t do it anymore. This method may very well have been successful for some people, but it wrecked me. The gaping hole in my soul had grown into a canyon.

That’s when I remembered the name of the counselor my pastor recommended.

I decided it was time to listen.

I made an appointment with no money to pay, and wasn’t sure where it would come from. I prayed for provision, and went anyway.

Sitting across from the counselor, I was surprised to see him smile. He didn’t look at me. He looked into me.

It made me feel human again.

I braced myself for a method of therapy that would leave bloody claw marks on my spirit, but it never came. His voice was gentle. He didn’t just hear my words. He understood them. I described my previous experience with a psychiatrist and assured him I never even filled the prescriptions. He apologized, and said he wished I had come to him first.

“We won’t do anything like that here,” he said.

I cried with relief.

Weeks of counseling followed. From the beginning, I knew I was in the presence of someone who was in the profession because he truly, deeply had a passion for helping people restore health to their spirits.

The things he taught me echo through my mind to this day.

Oddly enough, several weeks after my last counseling session, I had the darkest day of my life

It was a Sunday morning, and I was alone.

The depression had been slowly creeping up on me, and it was frustrating. I had been through counseling – didn’t that mean I was healed from this? That’s when it dawned on me.

I was broken.

I could never be fixed.

I was useless.

I was a burden to my precious husband.

I was unfit to ever be a mother, and should be grateful that we didn’t have children yet.

I was a wasted life.

My existence was a mistake.

Photo by Volkan Olmez

My husband would be happier with someone else, but because he was loyal and committed, he was stuck in a marriage that he would have to endure for the rest of his life.

I had robbed him of happiness.

Lies, lies lies.

I listened to the lies, those words of hate whispered to my vulnerable heart.

I had to set him free. He would probably be relieved.

I didn’t know why I felt that way. He had never been anything but loving, supportive, giving, self-sacrificing. For a moment, my heart warmed when I thought about how beautifully and selflessly he loved me.

You don’t deserve it, the lies hissed. You’re broken and you’ll never be whole again.

I won’t describe the events that followed. I will never again speak of that moment where I readied myself for death. It was cold, dark, and lonely.

Somewhere in that void, a warm light penetrated my heart. I suddenly remembered to Whom I belonged.

God doesn’t create waste. I was not waste.

That warm light brought to life my awareness of the moment. It illuminated the vicious, vile, evil lies mere seconds before my life ended. I was so close.

My heart blasted to life, and I desperately needed to throw up. So, so close.

I ran.

With rows of chills prickling down my spine, I ran downstairs and sat on the bottom stair.

Don’t move, I told myself. Just don’t move. Sit. Wait.

An hour later, my husband arrived home. He saw my face, and rushed to my side.

My eyes were long dry, empty of tears that had poured for the last hour. I told him everything.

He rocked back with a look on his face I’ll never forget. An expression of horror, confusion, grief, and relief.

He said very little. He said just enough.

Over the following week, we talked miles and miles of words. He reminded me of what I had learned in counseling. We tried to dissect what led to that moment.

My husband then named the monster that tormented me – Depression.

But wasn’t depression temporary? I had no idea depression could be so dark and empty. I had no idea I was still susceptible to it. I had been through weeks of counseling! This couldn’t be possible.

He made me promise I would never hide the depression from him, that I would always be open and let him know.

I kept my promise.

To this day, the nightmares still torment me. They come in waves. Depression is still an evil creature that lurks in my world, occasionally attacking fiercely. So many times I have begged God to free me from depression. For whatever reason, He has chosen not to. I trust his reasons. I have spoken to many who suffer the same afflictions, and when they were finally pointed back to Christ, they felt hope again. Ever since that dark day, depression doesn’t take over me anymore. I have protection now.

I wear armor.

Photo by Samuel Zeller

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” Ephesians 6:11-20 NIV

God didn’t remove the depression from my life. I rely on Him to help me through, and use what I have learned to help others. For this reason, I have stopped asking God to take it from me. For this reason, I am an ambassador in chains.

Depression no longer kicks me down.

I declare this boldly:  With Christ, I stand.

The Collector is Available for Download!

Hi Loves!

The Collector, my newest story, is now available for download! Just click the cover below and you’ll be taken to the PDF that can be saved and read on your Kindle or preferred PDF viewer.

This short work of fiction is about The Collector, a one-person army determined to single-handedly cripple the prostitution/human trafficking industry, one missing girl at a time. When confronted by her assassin, however, she is forced into a compromise to protect the girl she saved from sexual slavery a year before.